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A Lesson With Laura – The importance of socialising your new puppy

By Ash Tree Vets | 27th January 2020

In this months article, Laura focuses on the importance of correct socialisation for puppies.

We have seen an influx of new puppies here at the practice over the last couple of months (much to our delight – nothing beats a puppy cuddle!)  So now seems like a really good time to chat about puppy socialisation.

Socialisation is one of the most important jobs for any new puppy owner. A well socialised puppy is more likely to grow into a calm, confident and most importantly of all, a friendly dog. The effects of a lack of socialisation or poor socialisation should not be under estimated; a poorly socialised puppy may grow into a nervous or fearful dog that might even use aggression to keep people or other dogs away.

There are two important concepts that new puppy owners should be aware of:

Socialisation: Socialisation can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognise and interact with the species with which it lives. For our puppies that’s us, other dogs, and any other animals they may come into contact with. By learning how to interact appropriately with humans, dogs and other animals a well socialised puppy develops important communication skills which enable it to recognise and respond to the intentions of others.

Habituation: Habituation can be described as the process whereby an animal becomes accustomed to non-threatening things in the environment and learns to ignore them. This process is how a puppy learns to ignore things like passing cars, dustbins, the T.V, and other household appliances.

Puppies should be exposed to a wide variety of people including, men, women, children and people in uniform.  Puppies should also have the opportunity to socialise with different breeds and types of dog including both adult dogs and other puppies.

It is important to start the socialisation and habituation process the moment you get your puppy as the socialisation period begins when a puppy is around three weeks old and is thought to end at about 14 weeks old. Hopefully your puppy’s breeder would have already started exposing your puppy to certain sights, sounds and situations in order to start the habituation and socialisation process. It is now your job to ensure that you expose your puppy to a wide range of positive experiences as soon as possible to ensure that they become a well socialised individual.

Quite rightly many new puppy owners are concerned about how to safely socialise their puppy before their puppy’s vaccination course is complete. As a general rule we suggest that your puppy can mix with friendly, vaccinated dogs and puppies that come to your home until their vaccination course is complete. You can invite friends and family over to meet and greet your puppy, just ask them to leave their shoes at the door especially if they walk in areas with a high volume of dog walkers.  It is important to start getting your puppy out and about before the vaccination course is complete and this is safe as long as you carry your puppy or use a puppy sling or similar. Ideally unvaccinated puppies shouldn’t be allowed down on the ground in a public space. Some puppy classes or socialisation evenings may allow puppies to attend before the vaccination course is complete, this is usually because they only allow vaccinated dogs on site and disinfect the area thoroughly before and after each class.

All introductions must be done in a positive manner in order for your puppy to enjoy the experience. A few good quality socialisation opportunities will be more likely to achieve a positive outcome than lots of poor socialisation experiences. If you have a shy or fearful puppy it is important to seek advice from a professional as soon as possible so that you can be advised on appropriate, safe ways to socialise your puppy.

For further information on socialising your puppy, and for some easy to follow socialisation plans please go to the puppy plan website. The website holds a wealth of information on the socialisation process at each stage of your puppy’s development.